The Scottish Civil Courts Reform

The reform of the civil courts is a key commitment for the Scottish Government and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has a lead role in helping to shape and implement those reforms. The following commentary briefly outlines the origins of those reforms and the current state of progress.

Origins of the Reforms

A judicially led review of the Civil Justice System was undertaken in 2007-2009 and the outcome was published in September 2009 as the "Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review". In summary that review recommended:

  • establishment of a Civil Justice Council for Scotland
  • creation of a new tier of judiciary (summary sheriffs)
  • establishment of a national Sheriff Appeal Court
  • establishment of a national Personal Injury Court
  • changes to the process for Judicial Review
  • a shift of business from the Court of Session to the Sheriff Courts
  • a raft of changes to civil court rules to support modernisation of civil court procedures.

A synopsis of the review team's recommendations is available here and further background information is available in the following documents:

  • Public Consultation Document
  • The Summary of Consultation Responses
  • The Primary Legislation
  • The Commencement Order

The government has broadly accepted the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review.

During 2013

The Government undertook a full public consultation process on the way in which it intended to progress the structural changes recommended by the review team. There were 115 responses received and the Government has considered that information as part of the preparation of the draft Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill.

During 2014

The "Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill" was formally introduced in Parliament on 6 February 2014 and Royal Assent was received on 10 November 2014. Information relative to the public consultation and the subsequent progress of the bill through Parliament is available as follows:

Public Consultation Document

The Summary of Consultation Responses

Parliamentary Scrutiny

The Primary Legislation

The Commencement Orders

Exact dates for commencement are being finalised but a series of orders is expected.

The focus for 2015

For operational reasons the implementation of the changes that have been agreed by Parliament requires reasonable lead in times and the public will start to see the effect of the items covered in the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 in phased changes to court services over the coming years e.g.:

  • April 2015 for the SCS being renamed as the SCTS and taking on the function of providing administrative support to the Tribunals
  • September 2015 for the new Sheriff Appeal Court to start criminal appeals and, January, 2016 for civil appeals
  • September 2015 for the new Personal Injury Court to start operations
  • September 2015 for the new Judicial Review procedure to commence
  • The recruitment of the first tranche of new summary sheriffs will commence in mid 2015.
  • The new simple procedure will be developed and consulted on during 2015/16.

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